Imagine looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing those teeth!  I like seeing some personal expression on the roads.  When I was a boy I used to go out on long hauls with an uncle.  In an old Brockway that was about as non-descript as you could get.  A good thing, I suppose.  Uncle Frank used to like racing other drivers over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.  Eventually, someone put a governor on his engine.  Had he a rig more recognizable it would’ve happened much sooner.

It was in the era before global positioning satellites.  Truck drivers were the last cowboys 45 years ago.  It was a unique lifestyle.  Many of the drivers in Uncle Frank’s circle were divorced or moved from one relationship to another.  They were rarely home.  He used to run Montreal to Miami and at another time New York to Los Angeles. 

There was a machine on the wall and it took quarters and dispensed a product resembling a balloon.

He was street smart and knew the safe places where he could stop and places to avoid.  He laughed easily.  He’s the man who once sat in the bowling alley with me back home and explained the coffee was pumped from across the street.  On the other side of the street was the sewage treatment plant.

When I was 13, we were at a truck stop and I went into the bathroom.  There was a machine on the wall and it took quarters and dispensed a product resembling a balloon.  I had heard about this product from older boys at school.  I came back to the table and warned my uncle about what I’d seen.  He burst out laughing and rolled a couple of quarters across the table.

The road was an early education.  I learned how to read maps and it was a skill that served me well before GPS.  As an adult I once drove to Toronto and found my hotel after having read a map the night before.  With no wrong turns!

I grew to appreciate the country we passed at 65 miles per hour.  The groves of trees and the steeples we saw popping out from the green.  Uncle Frank didn’t go to church, however.  He had a painting of a driver on a rainy night being guided by Jesus.  His Baptist upbringing never quite went dark.

I didn’t make truck driving a career because of eyesight.  Backing up especially worried me.  And when GPS came along the romance was gone.  Uncle Frank retired to driving school bus near Erie, Pennsylvania.  He settled down and married.  I was going to go visit with him Independence Day weekend one hot summer 20 years ago.  He died days before the holiday.  Rest in Peace.


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